Inventions Saving Infant LivesEven with the rapidly developing technology around today, giving birth and nursing are still some of the toughest experiences a mother can go through. Those experiences are, unfortunately, even tougher for mothers giving birth in developing countries. With fewer resources and more exposure to disease right out of the womb, developing countries have some of the highest mortality rates. Here is a list of five inventions saving infant lives worldwide.

5 Inventions Saving Infant Lives

  1. Neopenda: Neopenda is one of the inventions saving infant lives. It is a hat made for babies which helps monitor their vitals such as heart rate and breathing capacity. The company was founded in 2015 and was marketed for newborns in Uganda. The design was tested in Uganda since 2017 and was finally funded in 2019. Neopenda has since won multiple awards for its revolutionary concept and application.
  2. Khushi Baby: Khushi Baby is a digital necklace for newborns that can store all of their medical information at an inexpensive cost. Khushi Baby was designed as part of UNICEF’s Wearables for Good contest and won. The necklace, along with the mobile app, allows nurses to keep track of patient data that can get easily lost in their busy and often underfunded healthcare systems. The necklace has been lauded as an ingenious idea that helps to digitalize immunization records for babies. This helps ensure more accurate and faster readings. Khushi Baby is working with NGO Seva Mandir to run vaccination clinics in rural villages in India. The company has expressed interest in expanding to Africa and the Middle East as well.
  3. Solar Suitcase: Another one of the inventions saving infant lives is the Solar Suitcase. It is an invention designed by Dr. Laura Stachel. The suitcase is a miniature kit powered by solar energy from two panels which produces a light strong enough for child delivery for nearly 20 hours. The kit was inspired by a visit Dr. Satchel made to Nigeria in 2009. She witnessed multiple times power outages that could harm babies and mothers during birth. The kit was tested in Nigeria by Dr. Stachel herself and proven to be a huge success. Since then, her charity We Care Solar has been helping to decrease mortality rates in Africa, Central America and Asia.
  4. The Odon Device: The Odon Device is a plastic bag that inflates to help pull a newborn’s head during delivery. The Odon Device was developed by Jorge Odon, a car mechanic from Argentina and made into a prototype in 2013. Funded by the World Health Organization, the Odon Device is meant to save newborns and their mother’s lives by limiting complications during birth. The product was tested in Argentina and South Africa and achieved a success rate of over 70%.
  5. TermoTell: TermoTell is a bracelet designed to recognize malaria early on in newborn babies. Another design created for UNICEF’S Wearables for Good contest, TermoTell reads babies’ temperatures to safely detect malaria and alert the doctor. If a newborn has malaria, the bracelet will glow and send an alert to a doctor’s phone. The invention was targeted towards sub-Saharan Africa where malaria can cause the deaths of nearly a million children. TermoTell is still just a prototype. The invention is still in the process of improving the design for more accurate readings in the future.

These five designs are just a few of the inventions saving infant lives all around the world. Most inventions are aimed at larger developing countries to help decrease mortality rates. Sub-Saharan Africa still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world with more than 50 deaths per 1,000 births while India has close to 30 deaths per 1,000 births. Inventions such as the five listed above have the potential to save thousands of lives and improve the mortality rate for many less developed countries whose mothers and infants have suffered for far too long.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Pixabay

Maternal healthcare in Algeria
Algeria, a large country in North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The country is known for its rich history and culture, as well as its scorching temperatures. Like many nations in Africa, Algeria struggles to combat maternal mortality – a long-standing, persistent issue for many women in the country. However, in the last several years, Algeria has taken numerous steps to expand maternal healthcare and reduce pregnancy and labor complications. Here are four facts about maternal healthcare in Algeria.

4 Facts About Maternal Healthcare in Algeria

  1. According to recent updates on the maternal mortality ratio in Algeria — it has gradually dropped from 179 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 112 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. Much of the success in lowering the number of deaths is attributed to a multitude of factors such as increased medical training, investments in healthcare and specific government initiatives aimed at reducing maternal deaths. During the years 2009–2017, Algeria trained about 900 professionals from university hospitals such as, Benni Messous, Kouba, Oran and Bab El Oued on multidisciplinary management of pregnancy.
  2. Within the last couple of years, Algeria has managed to make major investments in healthcare. Algeria managed to increase expenditures in healthcare as a share of GDP from 3.6 % in 2003 to 6.4 % in 2017 — growing at an average annual rate of 4.57%. This is an impressive number when compared with Algeria’s neighboring countries. Moreover, these investments have also helped to establish successful disease detection programs and allowed for improved medical facilities.
  3. In 2015, the Ministry of Health in Algeria began to work in collaboration with UNICEF in an attempt to implement a neonatal and maternal mortality reduction plan. This plan was implemented with the intention of reducing as many preventable, maternal deaths as possible, with a target of 50 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2019. Additionally, in 2016 the Ministry of Health put forward an emergency maternal mortality rate (MMR) reduction plan. “The goals set by the plan relate to strengthening family planning, improving the quality of healthcare during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.”
  4. In order to continue the reduction of the maternal mortality rate, the Health Ministry of Algeria held a survey to consolidate the maternal death rate with the technical and financial collaboration of the three U.N. agencies: (UNFPA, UNICEF and the WHO). The objectives of this survey were to reach a consensus on connections between frequent causes of maternal death, update the maternal death rate and cultivate reliable data “for the readjustment of national programs on maternal health and the reduction of preventable maternal deaths for the implementation of Algeria’s ICPD commitments.”

A Leader in Maternal Healthcare

Much work remains in order for Algeria to be able to effectively put an end to preventable, maternal deaths. However, the measures put into practice within the last several years have already proven to be a success. Thanks to these policies, Algeria has become known as a leader in maternal healthcare in North Africa and the country continues to build a strong momentum and infrastructure to fight this problem.

Shreeya Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Kenya's Breast Milk Bank

In April 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Health launched Kenya’s first breast milk bank at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi. Given Nairobi’s high neonatal death rate of 38 deaths per every 1,000 live-births, the Ministry launched the bank as a pilot to test if it could reduce the neonatal mortality rate. 

Background

Kenya’s breast milk bank serves infants who are premature, malnourished, underweight or orphans that do not have access to their mother’s breast milk. PATH, like several other global health organizations, cites human milk as the greatest tool for child survival. Breast milk contains a dense number of nutrients and antibodies critical to human development. Therefore, PATH estimates that if children had access to universal breast milk, breast milk could save about 823,000 children’s lives under the age of 5.

Human milk banks are an alternative to ensuring that infants have consistent access to breast milk. At the time of the bank launch, Kenya’s Ministry of Health stated that if the bank was successful, the Ministry would open several more banks in the country. Here are 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank.

5 Facts About Kenya’s Breast Milk Bank

  1. The Pumwani Maternity Hospital: The Technical Working Group selected Pumwani Maternity Hospital to host Kenya’s first breast milk bank because the hospital promotes kangaroo mother care– skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding–as part of its neonatal program. The hospital’s neonatal program caters specifically to preterm, underweight and malnourished infants.
  2. Mothers as Primary Milk Donors: Lactating managers from the Pumwani Maternity Hospital select mothers with more milk than their infant requires to donate it to the milk bank. The managers require mothers who agree to donate to undergo health and lifestyle screenings in order to ensure that they are viable candidates. The screenings include health and lifestyle questionnaires and laboratory blood tests. If lab workers identify alcohol, tobacco and drugs, HIV, Hepatitis B or C or Syphilis in a mother’s blood test, they will disqualify her from donating milk.
  3. Storing and Pasteurizing Donor Mother’s Milk: Mothers at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital donate their milk both naturally and with an electric pump. The hospital stores every mother’s milk separately in batches that contain codes for every mother. Once every batch volume reaches capacity, the hospital pasteurizes the batches to kill any bacteria or viruses in the milk.
  4. The Ministry of Health and Kenya’s Newborn Care Guidelines: Given that Kenyan infants now have access to breast milk due to Pumwani Maternity Hospital’s milk bank, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has added donated human milk to Kenya’s newborn care guidelines. These guidelines help to ensure that Kenyan infants receive the growth-development benefits from breast milk in order to increase their chances of survival.
  5. The Milk Bank’s Impact: As of October 2019, after six months since the MOH launched the bank, the Pumwani Maternity Hospital has delivered nutrient-rich breast milk from over 400 donors to 75 infants.

As stated in these 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank, Kenya’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital is impacting the lives of numerous vulnerable infants. The Ministry of Health looks toward the hospital impacting an increasing number of infants and significantly reducing Kenya’s neonatal mortality rate.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Single Motherhood in South Africa
Poverty in South Africa disproportionately affects women, a phenomenon people know as the feminization of poverty. Despite efforts by the South African government to combat severe female poverty and disadvantage, the feminization of South African poverty remains an important issue today. Single motherhood in South Africa is a huge problem because it puts a severe psychological and financial strain on both mothers and children. As of 2015, more than half of the South African population was living under the official poverty line, and homes headed by black African women are at greatest risk of impoverishment.

Despite government efforts to alleviate race-and-gender-skewed poverty with state-sponsored health care, free housing programs and subsidized basic services like water and electricity, poverty in South Africa remains overwhelmingly black and female. Half of South African children grow up in fatherless households, and the number of single mother households in the country has grown over the past several decades. Women must increasingly raise and support children alone, which increases a family’s risk of living under the poverty line.

Single-Mother Households and Poverty

The link between single-mother households and poverty is undeniable, impacting even the world’s most affluent nations. In Europe, single-mother households generally have more than double the poverty rate of two-parent households. Single-parent households are bound to bring in less money than married couples because they only have one source of income. As a result, children living in single-parent homes are three times as likely to be poor as children living with married parents.

South African women earn an average of 28 percent less than men, partly accounting for the disproportionate poverty of female-led households. Women also have a harder time finding jobs than men; almost 30 percent of working-age women are unemployed, compared to 25.2 percent of men. Women are also more likely to work in the informal, unregulated sector or do unpaid work. Other vulnerabilities, like domestic abuse, sexual assault, unwanted pregnancy and HIV prevent South African women from supporting themselves and their families.

There are psychological consequences for children in fatherless households as well as financial strains. Research has found that boys who grow up with absent fathers are more likely to display aggression and other hyper-masculine behaviors, which increases their risk for unhealthy relationships, crime and addiction. Fatherless girls are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, experience an unwanted pregnancy or find themselves in an abusive relationship. These consequences propagate the cycle of fatherless homes.

Why is Single Motherhood in South Africa Common?

For almost 50 years, South Africa’s white-supremacist government crystalized systematic inequality on the basis of race through the system of Apartheid. Now, only 25 years into liberation, the South African people still feel these legacies deeply. One of the main contributing factors is the urban-rural divide. Apartheid relegated black South Africans were often in rural homelands far from metropolitan centers and, subsequently, jobs. Thousands of black men had to migrate to cities to find work. They lived in male-only hostels or townships, making low wages and sending money back to their families, who could not leave the homelands to join them.

Some argue that the destruction of the black family structure by the Apartheid regime contributed to patterns of male family-abandonment and neglect. This phenomenon may have had a hand in the recent increase in single-mother households.

Additionally, the vast gap in access to good education, well-paying jobs and respect in society created socio-economic inequalities in South Africa. Black South Africans remain poorly educated, and cyclical, persistent poverty traps many of them, leaving them unable to pull themselves out. In addition, 13 percent of all pregnancies in the country are teen pregnancies, which prevent mothers from finishing school and focusing on a career, resulting in continuous poverty.

The South African government recognizes the scope and seriousness of poverty in single-mother households and has adopted the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 to raise living standards, provide public services and reduce severe poverty and inequality. The policy outlines a plan to invest in education, health services, public transport, housing and social security, as well as welfare policies directed specifically at women and children, like a national nutrition program for pregnant women and a plan to increase women’s enrollment in schools, especially in rural areas. Single motherhood in South Africa is a dangerous phenomenon, and in order to alleviate this problem, women need better access to education, resources and job opportunities.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the leading cause of liver disease. An estimated 248 million people are infected with the virus worldwide. HBV contributes to 600 thousand liver disease-related deaths a year. It is most prevalent in the Western Pacific with 6.2 percent infection rate and African regions with 6.1 percent of the population are infected. Instances of Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone are high, so the government is working to improve access to vaccinations.

Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone suffers an especially high prevalence of Hepatitis B. An estimated 8 percent of the population is actively infected, and 6-11 percent of mothers risk passing the disease onto their children through birth. HBV is most often transmitted via childbirth. It can also be transmitted through exposure to infected blood. In highly endemic areas, this occurs most often before age five. Adults can become infected through exposure to any infected body fluids, including through sexual activity.

Typically, the older an individual is at the time of exposure, the less likely the disease is to become chronic. However, children under a year old are 80 to 90 percent likely to develop chronic HBV if exposed, 30 to 50 percent before age 5 and fewer than 5 percent in adults. There is no cure for the disease, which often manifests without symptoms at initial infection. However, those suffering from it can suppress the virus through life-long treatment.

However, the HBV vaccine is 98 to 100 percent effective and has been shown to significantly decrease a country’s HBV prevalence when systematically administered. Sierra Leone has made a push toward improving its national health through international efforts. Though it is limited in its own resources, the country has facilitated “free testing, treatment and counseling” provided through the help of international donors.

Efforts to Reduce Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

In 2014, the African Regional Committee of the World Health Organization passed a resolution to reduce HBV prevalence in children under 5 years old by 2020 to less than 2 percent. In 2007, Sierra Leone introduced HBV in the vaccine to newborns at week 6, 10 and 14, but the WHO recommended birth dose was not being given.

Much of the efforts on studying hepatitis B in Sierra Leone have been focused on providing accurate information on its epidemiology. The Center for Disease Control conducted a survey measuring the frequency of mother-child transmission and the effectiveness of the current immunization program. Data recently collected on 3,158 households in three provinces of Sierra Leone. Over the course of six weeks, 551 samples of serum were collected

This information will be used to inform Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation on the success rate of the vaccination campaign. It will show how well the WHO recommended birth-dose works in reducing Hepatitis B. The research also compares Sierra Leone’s mother-to-child infection rate with that of other African countries with similar strains of the virus. The information is expected to be released by the end of 2019.

Areas to Improve

There are still many areas to cover. While the country focuses on expanding the vaccination program, there have been little effort put towards the prevention of adult to adult transmission. Some studies have shown that many healthcare workers lack adequate knowledge of the disease. At least 77 percent of healthcare staff were unable to recognizing clinical symptoms following infection. These areas need to be addressed in order to effectively reduce tranmission of the virus.

Still, the country has made massive strides in improving its HIV and malaria treatments in the past. Now, it must focus treatment on Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone. Education and vaccinations are essential to reducing the spread of the disease.

Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr